STATEMENT BY HAMPTON DELLINGER
Democratic Candidate for Lieutenant Governor
and Former Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel
OPPOSING THE NAVY’S PROPOSED OLF SITE
April 17, 2007 Charlotte, NC
North Carolina is renowned both for its incredible scenic beauty and for its long-standing support of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Navy’s proposed North Carolina site for an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) undercuts both traditions. We can do better, and we must. We owe it to ourselves, our environment, and to the men and women who protect us all.
North Carolina’s natural resources -- including the land, water, air, and skies we all share -- are a priceless endowment. But the natural beauty with which we are blessed is not ours alone. The Native American tribes who first lived in Washington County -- and from whose language we take the word “Pocosin” -- knew this. They believed, as I do, that we hold the environment only in trust, to honor those who came before us, and to protect for those who will come after. It is a fragile trust, all too easily violated and permanently betrayed.
Fortunately, the people of North Carolina -- from the Tuscarora who lived in Washington County to the townspeople of nearby Bath, our state’s first city -- have always treasured their natural endowment, and fought hard to preserve it, not least by creating protected natural areas like Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge.
As a Deputy Attorney General and the Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel, I sought to live up to this tradition of strong environmental stewardship. I successfully fought to preserve the Appalachian Trail, to shut down illegal polluters, and to ensure public access to our state’s precious coastline.
As North Carolinians, we can also claim another proud tradition: Our support for the U.S. military. Soldiers based in North Carolina put their lives and their safety at risk every day to protect our fundamental freedoms. The magnitude of their sacrifices is matched only by the importance of the principles and the people they protect. Like all of you, I owe them a great and unpayable debt.
And like many of you, I know North Carolina soldiers who have suffered grievous wounds in past and present foreign conflicts, including in Iraq – a war that was started rashly and which has gone on too long. We must never expose our military men and women to unnecessary risk here at home.
The Navy’s proposed site for the Outlying Landing Field threatens both of North Carolina’s proud traditions. It not only puts our servicemen and servicewomen at unnecessary risk, it also violates our commitment to the environment. It threatens thousands of acres in and around the Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge, an area whose natural treasures are rare and valuable. And it does so while simultaneously exposing military pilots to unnecessary hazard. The Navy’s own experts believe it is almost inevitable that “bird strike” will cause a plane crash at the proposed OLF. The serious threats posed to the environment and wildlife is reason enough to oppose the Navy’s siting. The risk to the lives of American soldiers makes the Navy’s plan simply unacceptable.
There are times when we must make hard choices about balancing competing concerns. This is not such a situation. The answer here is very simple: We must (and we can) find a better location for the OLF. We, as North Carolinians, can accommodate the Navy as we have the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard. Protecting the environment can go hand in hand with military development as it has many times in the past. But endangering pilots, poisoning waterfowl, and sacrificing thousands of farmland acres -- some of which is used to grow corn which can be converted into ethanol and other biofuels -- upsets not just the balance of nature itself, but the balance that hardworking North Carolinians have struck with nature.
Let me end with a short story, a true story -- one which many of you may remember -- which illustrates the dangers of the unnecessary “collision” between man and nature that results from the Navy’s plan. At a December 2005 flyover near the site of the proposed OLF, in front of stunned spectators, a Super Hornet fighter jet banked sharply at the last second to avoid a disastrous collision with a flock of the tundra swans which call the area home. I can think of no better representation of the dangers posed by the Navy’s proposed site than this near-tragedy.
An alternative story -- albeit with a Hollywood ending -- is told in a movie my children enjoyed. It is the 1996 film “Fly Away Home” which depicts a 13 year old girl aiding orphaned geese on the journey from Canada to North Carolina. It is a story of humans and nature, and indeed aircraft, co-existing together not in conflict.
North Carolina has prospered by harmonizing its best traditions. By finding a proper site for the outlying landing field, one which protects both pilots and the environment, we can continue to be the most military-friendly state in the country, as well as the most beautiful.
# # #